Beckett Speaks!

Like the famous headline “Garbo Speaks” this feels almost as exciting, and as special, to me anyway.

Those who know me know how much the works of Samuel Beckett mean to me. His work is a constant inspiration. Granted, it’s like a molehill being inspired by a mountain, but I’m not sure there’s ever been a writer whose work has me in such a consistent state of awe.

Anyone who follows me on Twitter will see a regular stream of Beckett related material tweeted and retweeted, so naturally when I saw a radio documentary on BBC about his work and archive in the University of Reading I liked and retweeted early in the day with the aim of listening to it later that day.

Enjoyable as the documentary is, narrated by Robert McCrum, with contributions from such luminaries as James Knowlson, Billie Whitelaw, Edna O’Brien, Tom Stoppard and Lisa Dwan, among others, the real peak for me was getting to hear a recording of Beckett, not only speaking, but reciting a part of his work Lessness.

As is well known Samuel Beckett was not a writer enamouured with any form of celebrity, and interviews and recordings of him are rare, so hearing him speak was more than a pleasant surprise.

I will confess that hearing him read from his own work, tapping a table with the end of a pencil as he spoke to ensure the listener would find the rhythm in the piece, left me quite emotional. I’ve listened to that part of the documentary again and again since, and it doesn’t lose its power.

I’ve no idea how long such radio documentaries stay up on the BBC website, so all I can do is implore you to listen. The documentary as a whole is fascinating, not only to hear about the Beckett archive, and from those who worked with him and knew him, but to get the rare opportunity to hear him speak (from approximately the 42 minute mark) adds so much more.



Fallow Media

I’m absolutely delighted to have a short story To Here Knows When published on the Fallow Media website.

To Here Knows When Cover pic 27-05-19


If anyone hasn’t seen this site before they really do an amazing job putting the pieces together, editing, and adding images to show them off at their best, and I’m so happy my own piece was selected.




The site itself is run bun by the hugely talented Ian Maleney who, in addition to all of the work he puts into the site, has recently published his first collection of essays with Tramp Press to huge acclaim, available, as they always say, in any good bookstore, or order directly from;

Minor Monuments

I do hope you’ll read, and enjoy, my story, and take some time to look at some of the other delights on Fallow Media (as a final request I would also ask those who can to become patrons of the site, ensuring not only that it can continue, but that the writers and creators can be rewarded in some small way for all of the efforts they put in).


Thank you,



This – an update

I’m actually a little surprised how long it’s been since last updating this blog. I suppose I’ve been using the blog to provide updates on what I’ve been doing, pieces accepted and published, readings and events, the usual currency of an evolving writer, and as the last twelve months haven’t been particularly successful in any of these spheres there seemed to be little need to provide an update, unless in a Beckettian way of nothing happening, again.

If I was of a mind I might use this space to complain, yet again, about the journals and publishers who don’t respond to submissions, as there surely has to be a special circle of hell reserved for them, but I’ll leave that for another day when I’m feeling less generous and really feel like sticking the fucking knife in.

It’s not that I haven’t been busy, in the gap between this and my last post. Looking at the short stories I’ve amassed I initially started to put them together into a collection which I could submit. I remember speaking to a poet friend who told me about the great level of thought she gives in putting different pieces together, considering where they fit in the grand scheme of the collection, and in relation to the pieces that come before, and after.

Assembling the collection I became aware that many of the pieces were so closely connected that they really had to be considered together, but just putting them together as a traditional short story collection wouldn’t necessarily work. I could see not only thematic similarities, but even a sense that the pieces were telling the same story, but from different angles.

Unhappy with the idea of a short story collection, with these pieces, I decided to, essentially, take them each apart, shuffle them together, and put them all back together into one longer piece. What I’m now left with is what I’m calling an experimental auto fiction novel, called “This”.

I’ve taken my cues from writers who inspire me, such as Beckett, Marguerite Duras and Joanna Walsh, and the structure of ‘The Unfortunates’, by BS Johnson (with a nod towards the structure of the musical composition ‘In C’ by Terry Riley). Essentially, I picture the book as an attempt by the protagonist(s) to escape time, that is, lives and events that are limited by external factors, specifically time. So in essence the pieces that make up the book occur one on top of the other. They, hopefully, blend into a whole that will say more by the experience of reading it than any traditional form of narrative or novel writing could.

I know I’ve moved away now from my idea of becoming a crime writer. While I still love the world of noir (the true world of noir, not the use of that term to smear over anything vaguely shadowy or stylised), my writing has become more experimental, but I’m happier with it as it is. I know I may be moving away from forms that may have been more popular, or of interest to a wider audience, but I have to be true to myself, and what I’ve put together as “This” is as true a book as could ever hope for.

Of course now I take my new little book, still raw and mewling, and hop aboard the Beckettian funfair ride that is the world of submissions.

Ah well.

Art & Writing

My friend, the hugely talented artist Anja Von Kalinowski, recently asked me to write some text to accompany some of her work which is now included in the Baby Forest online gallery. The work has now gone up online and can be found here;

I was delighted to write something for her, and I’m equally delighted that my words should be included along with such stunning work.

The work itself is based around a photograph of a patient in a psychiatric hospital in the nineteenth century, but if you get a chance you should have a look at the rest of her work, and indeed all the other members of the Baby Forest colony.



On a muggy night in Soho


On Monday gorse launched the first of their gorse editions, a poetry collection, Subcritical Tests, by Ailbhe Darcy and Stephen J Fowler,  in the basement of The Sun and Thirteen Cantons, in Soho, London.

As a precursor to the launch there was a short showcase of gorse with readings from three writers who have been published in the journal, myself, Niven Govinden and Susana Medina.

Colm gorse London reading

It was a really enjoyable evening, and it was great to see so many people come out for a literary event on a Monday night, especially an event organised by a journal who had never held an event in London before.

I’m always delighted to be a small part of anything gorse does, and especially at the launch of their first book, and a very beautiful book it is too.

My reading was recorded, and can be watched here.

I hope you like it.

Reading in London with gorse

This coming Monday, 10th July, gorse will be launching Subcritical Tests their first poetry collection, by Ailbhe Darcy and SJ Fowler.

As part of the launch there will be a short showcase of writers who have appeared in gorse and I’m really proud to have been asked to read.

If any of you are in London on Monday do please drop by, listen to the readings, have a good time, and maybe buy a book.

A Monday night in a bar in Soho, what could possibly go wrong!!

gorse London launch

(and as a quick note, the notice for the event is a great opportunity to see all of the gorse covers in one place, all designed by the brilliant Niall McCormack, aren’t they superb!!)

What do you write about?

‘So, what do you write about?’ Is there a worse question to ask a writer? What do I write ‘about’?

First, some context. I spent Saturday at a friend’s wedding in London. The day was fantastic, the lovely couple were just that, the people were all great company, the food, the drink, the whole atmosphere was brilliant, and everyone had a whale of a time. As we all mingled, introduced ourselves, made small talk, and generally relaxed as the day and the booze flowed, the questions started as to what we all did. I had been asked to read a poem at the ceremony, Dover Beach by Matthew Arnold, I was delighted to be part of the day and the fact that I am a writer was probably a good part of why I was asked. So the guests would know I write, and so they would be interested, as much as we were all interested in what everyone else does, in what it is I actually write, and what I write about.

I know in this modern world of ours we’re all meant to have a soundbite, or a tweet-long summation of everything we do, anything else is old fashioned. But what do you actually say? Maybe it would have been easier when I still thought I was a crime writer, at least I could say I write crime stories, and wait as the questioner pictures whatever version of crime fiction they have in their heads. But as I’m now writing in the ‘literary’ genre, what do I say?

I could try to expound on the great themes I perceive in my work, but as I don’t have the academic facility for language and the subtleties of critical thought I’d probably fall over myself, plus I didn’t want to come across as a prick. So I mumbled, said I write short stories, tried to refer to the stories I recently had published in gorse and The Stinging Fly, and hoped they’d ask me something else, or just move on.

Maybe it’s an easier question for people who have been published, and by that I mean have had a book by themselves published, a physical thing, sitting somewhere on a shelf? So when someone at that stage is asked they can always just refer to their book and move on. But when you’re reliant on disparate stories appearing here and there you don’t even have that luxury.

I mean, what do I say? Do I say I sit myself inside the skull of my characters (usually just one, and usually just me) and describe what I see and feel as events transpire, or not? Do I say I write of desperation, or longing, or try to capture fleeting moments before they disappear? Do I say I try to write about the vagaries of love, or just its sheer impossibility? Do I say that a tryst in a temporary space like a hotel room is more real to me than the fantasy of a life-long commitment, of domesticity, of an aspirational happiness? Do I say any of the not particularly happy, not particularly friendly, not particularly cheery ideas that float around inside my skull and find their way onto the page?

Do I say any of these things, and watch as my fellow wedding guests beat a polite retreat to another part of the garden where the seats are that bit more comfortable, the wine flowing that little bit easier, the canapes that little bit tastier, or the purely coincidental fact that just as I speak they spy the arrival of an old friend they just ‘have’ to say hello to and I’m left to contemplate the flight path of a passing jet and my empty glass? Or do I squirm and try to find some way out of the question as soon as possible and a way of changing the conversation to something that feels less like it comes with thumbscrews?

Did you know, the bride and two of her friends,

who are both here too, used to make dresses for the Queen!?

Maybe I just need to rehearse something, have a soundbite in my back pocket, something?

It’s interesting that when writers meet we often ask each other if we’re working on anything at the moment, usually just saying you’re working on a short story, a poem, an essay or a novel is more than enough. We want to be polite; we want to be interested, we want to be friendly, but most of all we don’t want to be asked what we’re writing about, so we skirt around the question until we can find anything else to talk about.

‘I was at this wedding recently, and you’ll never guess

what the bride and two of her friends used to do?’




Over the weekend I read an article on the Death of the Novel, a fairly common theme, and one that’s probably been around since shortly after the first appearance of the novel. Anyway, I’ll put a link below and you can read it, or not.

For me, I suppose, all the claims about what the world of social media does to our ability to communicate leave, if you want, a question as to what the novel is actually for anymore? If we can say anything we want and have it circle the world in nanoseconds what is the point of slaving for years for some ink stains on slices of dead trees instead?

My own opinion, and one I did tweet (so like the rest it’s circling the world somewhere still, like a dead satellite), is that novels give us the space to write about what we can’t, or won’t, speak about anywhere else. They allow us to explore those interior spaces that the arc lights of social media will never be able to reach (or maybe I just shouldn’t have been reading Clarice Lispector on the plane home).

Anyway, maybe that’s what I say the next time someone asks me what I write about, I’ll just make sure that I’ve stocked up on plenty of prosecco and canapes first before I open my mouth, it could be a long, lonely afternoon after that!




At the Belfast Book Festival

Yesterday I drove up to Belfast to read as part of the Belfast Book Festival.

The event was a celebration of Irish literary journals, two readers each from The Tangerine, Banshee, and myself and Annemarie Ní Churreáin representing The Stinging Fly, each got to read a sample of our work in the setting of the Crescent Art Centre.


Tangerine Belfast 2(my, ‘plugging the journal’ pose)


I read an extract from my story Lying on a Beach, which features in the Summer 2017 issue of The Stinging Fly.

I traveled up with my good friends Susan Tomaselli, the editor of gorse, and the poet and essayist Dimitra Xidous. There’s nothing like a good discussion about the importance of breakfast to make a car journey more enjoyable (it was actually much more fun, and interesting, than it sounds, but I’ll leave the explanation to others!)

It was a really enjoyable event, with a great crowd. My only regret is that I couldn’t stay on longer to enjoy the hospitality more.

Tangerine Belfast pic

(under the watchful gaze of Declan Meade, editor of The Stinging Fly)

At the gorse #8 Launch

Sitting alone in a room writing is one thing, having people read your work later can be nerve-wracking enough, but reading it out loud can be exhilarating and terrifying all in one.

At the recent launch of gorse #8 I was delighted to be asked to read part of my story, Cinq à Sept, and was full of confidence on the night, all the way up until two feet from the microphone. However, nerves or not I think I managed to get through it without cocking it all up, which is nice.


Gorse 8 Launch Picture


What’s more, there’s now a podcast of the readings on the night which you can listen to here (my own reading starts at about the 36 minute mark, but I strongly urge you to listen to the whole podcast, there was some really outstanding work on show that night, and I was humbled to be a part of it all)


My Short Story, Lying on a Beach, in The Stinging Fly

After trying for many years I’m delighted to have a short story ‘Lying on a beach’ published in the Summer 2017 edition of The Stinging Fly.

The journal itself is celebrating its twentieth anniversary this year and I’m really happy to have made the cut.

The journal is, as they say, available in all good bookshops, or through the journal website. I really hope as many of you as possible can pick up a copy of the journal and read my story, it’s one that really means a lot to me


Stinging Fly Cover - Summer 2017